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A number of the Russian industries have been cut off from being able to engage with the outside world as a result of sanctions imposed in response to Russian Federation's war of aggression against Ukraine.

The sanctions are clearly insufficient since the RF is still not considering withdrawing from the Ukrainian territory.

Russia clearly has anticipated being disconnected from the Internet while it was planning this war. It has conducted a study of how its internal processes would fare in case of a complete disconnect from the global Internet.

It is widely believed that the next round of sanctions cannot yet completely eliminate purchases of Russia's natural gas.

But what about cutting off of all Internet traffic to/from Russia? Since Russia's own disconnect from the Internet hasn't affected the natural gas deliveries, it should be possible to disconnect Russia from the global Internet without interfering with the flow of the natural gas and payments for the natural gas.


Q: Is there any government-conducted study on the ECONOMIC IMPACT of such disconnecting (at the IP routing level, so no IP traffic in or out) of all or most of global Internet from Russia?


Obviously all traffic cannot be stopped without stopping all telecommunications (including telephone land lines), but the aim of sanctions is never to stop all trade within a certain sphere, just most of it.

As, an example, of what such sanctions may entail, it could mean

  • disconnecting all servers located geographically inside of Russia from the Internet backbone;
  • mandating, by law, ICANN and RIPE NCC to invalidate Russia's IP address allocations;
  • forbidding of export of any cell-phone tower equipment to the RF as well as sale of any cell-phone tower equipment, or any equipment which can be used to upgrade cell-phone tower equipment, to any entity servicing equipment on the territory of the Russian Federation.
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    Define "disconnecting." Cutting the lines through the West won't help, compare North Korea. Reassigning their IP blocks would depend on who joins and who doesn't, and would risk severe chaos all over the world.
    – o.m.
    Jun 15 at 5:56
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    This is a hypothetical question: "What would happen if..." Jun 15 at 8:29
  • @RogerVadim it's not. It's a question about whether a certain sanctions regime has been priced. The economic cost of disconnecting Russian natural gas has been priced. That had to be economically studied before it could happen. The same can be done with disconnecting all IP traffic. The economic cost of not routing disconnecting it can be studied. The question is whether such a government study exists.
    – wrod
    Jun 15 at 8:48
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    @RogerVadim why? it's not a technical question. It's a question about sanctions. The fact that this is possible has been demonstrated by Russia's test. The question is about whether the economic impact study, similar to the studies of economic impact of disconnecting Russian natural gas, have been done.
    – wrod
    Jun 15 at 8:57
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    I voted to reopen, but cutting Russia from the outside is not as easy as them cutting themselves off. Because physical links can go through China etc. So a "cut" against China's wishes will be more on a software level, IPs, DNS etc., which the relevant authorities (ICANN etc.) have vetoed.
    – Fizz
    Jul 18 at 4:17

3 Answers 3

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Not all that sure it is possible. While Russia can choose to disconnect itself, the deliberately decentralized architecture of the internet makes the reverse not all that clearly legally or technically achievable, especially if some countries do not share the same goals.

Why We Can’t Disconnect Russia From the Internet

Authority Ceded to ICANN As a result of an effort led by the U.S., control over the internet—or rather the addressing system that largely defines the internet—has been ceded to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. Although ostensibly created by world governments, ICANN is not an agency of those governments, nor is it accountable to them in any meaningful way.

and further, would it work and would it be a good idea?

The complete opposite of what we need

Meanwhile, other researchers joined the chorus of people opposing the Ukraine government's request. "It's the complete opposite of what we need. We should make sure that the Russian people are seeing what is happening and what their government is doing," security researcher Runa Sandvik told CyberScoop.

Sounds rather like gifting them a Great Firewall of China.

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    Whether or not something is technically possible is not necessary for its economic impact to be studied. There may be no asteroid heading towards a city, but it's still possible to have an economic impact study of an asteroid destroying an isolated city. Even if a technical possibility doesn't exist, an effort can be made to develop it. And before the effort is undertaken, or even while the effort is undertaken, there can be an economic impact study of what the success of such an effort would bring about.
    – wrod
    Jul 17 at 22:05
  • Administrators can easily block they servers from any country if told so. There is no reason to mess with backbones. But I agree may not be beneficial.
    – Stančikas
    Jul 23 at 5:32
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I think cutting Russia off from the global internet would greatly help the Putin regime. Just look at China and North Korea, which have semi- and completely closed internets. Without something to counter the state-sponsored pro-war narrative, On-the-Fence Russians would be slowly swayed to the pro-war side, and the voice of the anti-war Russians would not be heard (both in and outside Russia). Moreover, if nobody outside Russia can hear the anti-war advocation from the Russian people, a majority of western audiences would be led--by either the lack of information or western media/government--to believe that every single Russian is pro-war. This would lead to widespread anti-Russian sentiment, which would push on-the-fence Russians to the pro-war camp. This would be a greater boon for Putin.

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    What does that have to do with the question? I asked if there was a study of how much it would cost. Like they know how much it would cost to turn off Russian natural gas without doing it first. And I want to know if anyone studied what it would cost to eliminate Russia's presense on the Internet.
    – wrod
    Jul 23 at 2:58
  • Has to do with cost. Global blocking is not beneficial.
    – Stančikas
    Jul 23 at 5:20
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While it is not possible to "disconnect internet" in general, an administrator of the particular website can block selected countries very easily. This is more usually done temporarily against denial of service attacks if they seem country specific, but can be arranged in minutes for any other reason and left as long as required. If the government will tell, most of administrators will do. IP address cannot be hidden and always tells the country.

Many servers use firewall providers like CloudFlare where it is a user friendly interface. You may setup a proxy in another country to bypass the blocking but this is still lots of hassle that many users will not be doing.

Most of commercial sites need working credit cards to make any business. Running ads for goods under sanctions also makes no sense. Hence I do not think it would be very expensive but probably also not very useful.

However some free and valuable or just interesting resources like bioinformatical databases (NCBI, Ensenbl, Arabidopsis.org, PubMed Central and others) could easily be blocked. Also Wolfram alpha, Apache, GitHub, CiteSeerX, arxiv.org, Hubble and JWST sites and the like. I think less than a hundred sites need to be blocked to reduce the usefulness of the internet by three orders of magnitude. And many of these sites are not in Syria, North Korea or even China, but in places like USA and EU. Many are state funded so little hope they will just refuse.

Hence I think the threat is quite real and this can be done.

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    Commercial VPNs can also be stopped, of course, by sanctions. It's enough to make it illegal to provide commercial services designed to mask the origin of a connection if that origin is in the range of IPs allocated to RF's ISPs. In fact, most argument that "it can't be done," ignore the fact that sanctions are legal regimes. So they rely on legal restrictions of certain commercial activities rather than just technical solutions. Non-commercial activity is very limited and often still relies on commercial solutions providing support underneath.
    – wrod
    Jul 24 at 5:31

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